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Coronavirus: Merkel, German states consider tougher restrictions

Germany’s federal government and states are considering tighter COVID-19 restrictions, such as dramatically reducing the number of people at private gatherings and compulsory mask wearing for school students.

 On Monday, Chancellor Angela Merkel will discuss potential new measures with the heads of the country’s 16 states via video conference. A draft document of the measures, seen by various media outlets, said people would be urged to abstain from private parties completely until Christmas.

According to the proposals, children and young people are to be encouraged to meet with only one particular friend regularly in their free time. Similarly, families are to limit private get-togethers to their own household and people from one other particular household.

The draft document further envisions limiting peoples’ meetings in public to members of their own households and a maximum of two people from another household.

The proposals could still change pending the discussion between the federal and regional governments.

Read more: Germany hails couch potatoes as heroes of coronavirus pandemic

German Chancellor Angela MerkelMerkel warned during her video address Saturday that ‘the winter ahead will still demand a lot from everyone’

Masks and social distancing at schools

The draft also pushes for social distancing measures to be stepped up at schools. Masks that cover the mouth and nose are to become compulsory for teachers and pupils of all ages on school premises and during lessons.

Pupils are to have lessons in assigned, unchanging groups of about half the regular class size, according to the proposal.

All people considered vulnerable will be eligible once a week for one heavy duty respirator mask, also known as FFP2.

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Regional bottlenecks

Germany this month imposed a set of measures dubbed a “lockdown light” to rein in the second wave of the pandemic that the country is seeing in common with much of the rest of Europe. While bars and restaurants are closed, schools and shops so far remain open.

As a result, numbers of new infections are no longer growing exponentially, but a decrease of infection numbers is not yet foreseeable, the document said.

After the pandemic began, 520,000 COVID-19 cases were detected in Germany by the end of October, but numbers spiked by 50% to 780,000 cases in the first two weeks of November. In the same period, the number of COVID-19-intensive care patients in German hospitals increased by 70%, leading to regional bottlenecks.

Merkel warned during her video address Saturday that “the winter ahead will still demand a lot from everyone.”

On November 23, the chancellor and the regional state heads will meet again and possibly decide further measures, taking into account the development of infection numbers by then.

kbd/sri (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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